THE PICKAXE awakens a lust for power, or at least it does in me. This simple implement, invented by technological minds when levers were still new, inspires visions touched with grandiosity. The thought of prying glacial boulders from the subterranean depths, of digging deep ditches, or of uprooting the feet of massive trees, all with little effort, springs to mind. The fact that one may never come close to truly spectacular feats doesn’t matter. It is the dream, the enlarged sense of possibility, that counts.
The pickaxe has been idle all winter, propped under the eaves, silent and magnificent, it’s tapered handle suave and elegant against the wall. Even careless neglect, days in damp dirt, never seem to harm its blade, pointed on one end, like a finger, blunt and flat as a spatula on the other, so very much like a hand, but much better. In early spring, the sabbatical ends and by May, I am always vaguely aware of where the pickaxe is. I almost never forget where I have left it a day or two ago. It is like the gun to the hunter, or the net to a fisherman, a material extension of being, an extra limb.
A pickaxe isn’t feminine. But I don’t care. That assault of the earth, that moment when the flattened blade cuts the surface, as if ripping open an envelope with a long-anticipated letter inside, even when it clangs against a buried rock, is so intoxicating, I wouldn’t give it up to please anyone or to improve my image. I’m anti-feminist, but not anti-work, not anti-pickaxe. No one really likes to dig compacted earth, especially if it’s full of rocks and roots; that’s when you have to pry and pick and paw at the ground, begging for an opening. Men are better at this of course because they’re stronger, but I don’t have a personal chain-gang of diggers and I wouldn’t even want one. Digging is for lovers. Lovers of the ground. Read More »